Kris and Lindy Boustedt’s THE SUMMER HOME is a compelling exercise in tone but the overall story lacks clarity. It opens with a Man (Paul Vitulli) driving frantically. A Woman (Wonder Russell) is in the back seat crying hysterically and covered in blood. The man stops the car and breaks into an empty mountain-house where they take refuge for majority of the film. It is clear that the woman has recently given birth and she carries around her bloody dress wrapped in a blanket as if it were the baby.
The problem I have with the film is that I’m not sure what I’m supposed to take from this. There is clearly a rift between the couple and the Woman is traumatized. She remains distant from the Man and though we may have some guesses, we are never quite sure why. Obviously, it revolves around the baby, or more accurately, the lack thereof. I have no problem with ambiguity in a film, nor do I take issue with not understanding something that is not meant to be understood, but in THE SUMMER HOME I felt that the unanswered questions were unjustified. The reason is, that whatever happened with the baby seems to be one hundred percent of the reason why the characters are behaving the way they are. In order to truly understand why the Man and Woman do the things they do, we need to know what the back story is. For instance, there is world of difference in the way we would read the characters’ (especially the Woman’s) action if the husband killed the baby, as opposed to the baby dying of natural causes.
The film is almost entirely silent in regard to dialogue. The Woman has one line that seemed to only further muddy the story, instead of clearing anything up and the Man doesn’t say anything. The disturbing final moments serve to only perplex further in terms of what the characters are thinking and feeling, and what their motives are. The lack of dialogue is an admirable approach but not altogether successful and I feel that with only a few expository lines, any confusion about the story could have been abated.
Still, THE SUMMER HOME does showcase talent. The cinematography is wonderful, especially, the scenic, outdoor shots. The pacing was almost perfect and the reconciliation of the couple would have worked really well in a more comprehensible story. Also, the performances are effective. The leads have good chemistry and they do a commendable job of subtly conveying emotion. Had the film done a better job conveying its story, it may have been a knockout.
THE SUMMER HOME Review
FILM SYNOPSIS - To survive, a homeless couple in crisis break into an empty summer home. By playing house, they find the meaning of family again - but how long can their false reality last?